Derek Harrison's Crossword Message Board

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Listener 4397: We'll always be together
IP: 109.150.110.36


Nothing wrong until the final step and then all hell broke loose. L and S presumably stand for large and small. If the two objects dropped have the same mass, then they will be of different densities - consider, for example, lead and feathers - and there is no doubt at all that the leaden object will fall faster. This is partly due to air resistance being greater for the feathers and partly to the effects of wind being more likely to divert it from the vertical. It is also not entirely clear where the objects are dropped from: if from the two 'windows' created by the loss of the L and S cells, then this will be an extra factor. To make sense, of course, Galileo's (probably fictional) experiment would have to be conducted in vacuo; I believe this was done in a vacuum chamber recently and showed that the objects did fall at the same time. But I also think Galileo was thinking (in his thought-experiment) of two objects of the same size but different densities. In that case it might be more likely that they would reach ground level at times which differed only by a small amount. But the L and S are, I am afraid, unambiguous. So, clever as this puzzle is, it strikes me that it fails on grounds of scientific accuracy. (Mind you, I am not a physicist, just a mathematician, and am quite used to hypothesising imaginary objects such as frictionless pulleys, light inextensible strings and point masses just to make Newton's Laws work.)

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